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Google X Display Guru Says Wearable Computing Is Unstoppable | MIT Technology Review

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Google X Display Guru Says Wearable Computing Is Unstoppable | MIT Technology Review.

Mary Lou Jepsen, head of the display division for Google’s notoriously secret hardware innovation lab, Google X–which is building the Google Glass head-worn computer–took the stage at EmTech Thursday to talk about innovation, creativity, and, naturally, wearable computing.

While Jepsen apologized a few times for being unable to divulge what, specifically, she’s working on over at Google (“Sergey insists,” she said apologetically at one point, referring to company cofounder Sergey Brin), she did share a number of thoughts related to her division and the changing face of consumer electronics, among other topics. Below are some of her distilled thoughts.

  • She believes wearable computers are “a way of amplifying you,” saying that for years she felt that a laptop is an extension of her mind. “It’s coming. I don’t think it’s stoppable,” she said of wearable devices like Glass, adding that it makes it much faster to do things like take photos, and “you become addicted to the speed of it, and it lets you do more fast and easily.”
  • Ten years from now, assuming we can’t cure neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, she expects human-computer interfaces (such as the red Google Glass she wore around her neck, presumably) to be able to do things like identify the people around you.
  • She pointed out the importance of varied design in making commercially successful smart watches, similar to the different kinds of clothes we all wear.
  • Despite keeping her mouth shut about what she and her team are building, she indicates they’re working hard, saying they’re “maybe sleeping three hours a night to bring the technology forward,” and that we may see what they’re working on next year.
  • She stressed that industrial design and user experience design are “not the whole product,” when it comes to consumer electronics, and that, if you really think about it, the existence of the laptop was made possible by the creation of the liquid-crystal display, and tablets by further innovations in hardware. “There’s only so much you can do by styling the housing and icons,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of room for diversity and innovation of approach here.”
  • She also stressed the importance of understanding from early on in the product-development cycle about how what you’re making will scale.
  • She says Google’s driverless car, which the company has long been testing on California’s roads, is “safer than a regular driver now,” and that Google has driven more miles with its driverless car than the ground covered by all other driverless cars combined.
  • She noted the importance of innovation at any age. “I don’t think any one of us has an excuse on why we can’t get up and do something really big, really bold,” she said.

Written by Kees Winkel

November 23, 2013 at 10:31

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Breaking news and pretty relevant: Ray Kurzweil joins Google to work on machine learning, language processing — Tech News and Analysis

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Written by Kees Winkel

December 15, 2012 at 16:19

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What 2012 Holds for Social Media

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We’ve already taken a detailed look at how outsourcing of social media could increase in 2012, but how else is the industry set to change in the coming year? There’s a lot to be expected in 2012, from Facebook’s impending and much-anticipated IPO, to seeing how the Google+ and Facebook rivalry will finally play out.

With the three heavy hitters – Facebook, Twitter and Google+ – taking up most of the social media space, it’s hard to imagine a new company coming into the picture and taking people’s attention away from existing services. Instead, we’ll probably continue to see services that plug into the existing environment, like Flipboard and its many competitors, which have capitalized on how social media has become a tool for the curation of current events and news. While the news aggregator space is overcrowded as it is, other tools may come to the forefront in 2012, capitalizing on social media as a tool to be used in politics, particularly with the US presidential elections on their way, and in education.

At the same time, new networks, like Path, have seen impressive growth rates, and with its focus on the mobile experience, 2012 may have a lot of good things in store for the unexpected service, but will it last? We take a look at these questions and more in the following list of 5 predictions for what 2012 holds for social media.

Continue via What 2012 Holds for Social Media.

Written by Kees Winkel

January 8, 2012 at 10:57

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Why Twitter doesn’t care what your real name is

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Via GiGaOm

Amid all the noise and fury over Google’s policy of requiring real names (or at least real-sounding names) on its new Google+ network — a policy that Facebook also has, and one we have been critical of in the past — it’s easy to forget that there’s a pretty large web service that doesn’t much care what your real name is. Although it does prevent you from pretending to be people you aren’t, Twitter doesn’t block or ban users for having pseudonyms the way Google and Facebook do. Why is that? I think it’s because Twitter realizes it can provide plenty of value for users (and thus for advertisers) without having to know your real name. The social web is about reputation and influence, not necessarily names.

I started thinking about this again, not just because the real-name issue continues to draw heat from Google+ users — and because Facebook’s real-name policy threatened to become a legal issue if legislation that was being proposed by Congress passed — but also because I had a chance to re-read Clay Shirky’s excellent take on group dynamics from 2003, in which he talked a bit about identity online. If you haven’t had a chance to read his presentation, I highly recommend it. Before he became a media guru, Shirky spent years studying early online worlds such as LambdaMOO and The Well, and his insights are worthwhile for anyone interested in the topic of community online.

When he gets around to the issue of identity, Shirky says that he generally avoids the topic because it “has suddenly become one of those ideas where, when you pull on the little thread you want, this big bag of stuff comes along with it” — something just as true now as it was eight years ago when he said it. He notes that while anonymity doesn’t work well in group settings (as supporters of Google’s policy like to point out), the answer isn’t necessarily requiring real names, but rather some structure that allows for persistent pseudonyms or “handles.”

Not real names — persistent identity with reputation attached

There has to be some permanence to these handles, Shirky says, because otherwise there’s no reputation hit to changing your online name and behaving completely differently — and users need to be able to know who they are talking to or interacting with from one minute to the next, even if they don’t know their real name. As he puts it, weak (or non-persistent) pseudonyms don’t work well because:

I need to associate who’s saying something to me now with previous conversations… If you give users a way of remembering one another, reputation will happen, and that requires nothing more than simple and somewhat persistent handles.

Does that sound like any kind of online network you know of? It sounds a lot like Twitter to me. In a recent open house at the company, CEO Dick Costolo talked about how the service doesn’t really care what your real name is — all it wants to do is connect you to the information that you care about. And if that information happens to come from a “real” person, then so be it; but if it comes from a pseudonym, then that’s fine too. Twitter isn’t necessarily married to the idea of users having pseudonyms, Costolo said — it’s simply “wedded to people being able to use the service as they see fit.”

I think Mat Honan at Gizmodo hit the nail on the head in a post he wrote about Costolo’s remarks, in which he talked about how Twitter doesn’t care what your name is because it has realized that you and your activity are just as valuable to advertisers with or without a real name. That’s because advertisers want to target their messages based on interests, demographics, reputation and influence — things that have little or nothing to do with what name you use. You could argue that people who use real names are more likely to tell the truth about their age, marital status etc., but even those aren’t the real goal.

Reputation and influence matters — not names

The reason why services like Klout have been gaining steam is that advertisers and marketers are looking to build a “reputation graph” that they can tie to the interest graph they get from watching behavior on social networks. They need to know not just what is being talked about but who is saying it, and whether they are influential. Does their real name matter? Not really. Did anyone care that Perez Hilton used a fake name as he built a small media empire under the noses of the mainstream media? No. Advertisers certainly didn’t care, because he had influence in the markets that they were interested in.

Shirky’s point is that for a functioning online community, all you really need is some kind of system for attaching reputation points to a user’s “handle” or pseudonym. Klout is trying to do that with a number that rises and falls based on your activity on networks like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Tumblr. It may not be the best system, and Klout has its share of critics, but it is the closest thing we have right now to a reputation graph that is based on Twitter and other social-network activity. If you behave badly and you lose followers, your ranking falls, regardless of what your name is.

That kind of penalty — a loss of status, a loss of followers, etc. — matters to most users (other than pure trolls, or what online researchers call “griefers”), and so they will behave in ways that protect it. It’s the same in successful online communities like Slashdot and Metafilter, where users have invested a lot of time in their online personas, whether they use their real names or not (I’ve talked about this before as being a little like levelling up in online games like World of Warcraft). And of course, the “real” names of many Twitter users and gamers can be discovered fairly easily with a web search.

Google has made it clear that it wants Google+ to become a central kind of “identity service” that it can build other services on, although it’s not clear what kinds. But the real-name requirement must be based on something other than just wanting to have a well-designed online community or network in which people are free to share information, because Twitter has shown that doing this doesn’t require real names — and never has.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr users Klobetime and Danny Cain

Written by Kees Winkel

September 18, 2011 at 16:40

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Google predicts the Internet could create 365,000 new UK jobs by 2015

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Economists based in Google have predicted that an Internet boom in the UK could open as many as 365,000 jobs within the next five years, with the Internet accounting for a fifth of the regions GDP growth, The Telegraph reports.

Google’s European Vice-President and chief of search operations Philipp Schindler believes that despite European businesses fighting to remain afloat during a period of economic uncertainty, Internet-based or Internet-related companies that use the web successfully were still growing strongly.

“A study by McKinsey has shown that in France and in a mature economy like the UK, the internet is responsible for a fifth of GDP growth. In the UK, given the rate of job creation that economists associate with a rise in GDP, this translates into an expectation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs thanks to the internet,” he said.

“And I think that is on the conservative side. That is what could be achieved by putting a focus on this sector. That feels to me like a sizeable number.”

Schindler is in the UK to help drive Germany’s mid-sized sector, helping to drive the amount of goods exported by businesses in the region. He noted that for every pound that is imported, the UK exports “close to £3 in e-commerce goods and services”. He adds that the “UK is already doing relatively well in that sector but the ratio could be significantly higher”.

via Google predicts the Internet could create 365,000 new UK jobs by 2015.

Written by Kees Winkel

September 13, 2011 at 10:36

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Are Any Of The Patents Google Got With Motorola Mobility Any Good? | Techdirt

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Are Any Of The Patents Google Got With Motorola Mobility Any Good?

from the does-it-even-matter? dept

With all of the attention Google bought for buying Motorola Mobility for its patents, one question that not too many people asked was whether or not those patents were any good. Of course, when you’re dealing with 17,000 patents and the fact that Google has shown no signs of planning to go on the offensive with patent fights, it seems clear that the point of getting this patent portfolio was very much about quantity over quality — mainly to ward off lawsuits from other big companies, with the recognition that somewhere in those 17,000 patents was probably something that the other company infringed upon.

Still, the folks at M-CAM decided to put the Motorola Mobility patent portfolio to the test by using a variety of scoring techniques, and believes that the portfolio isn’t all that valuable, both in the aggregate and at the specific level. It basically found that about 48% of the patents are probably worthless. At the specific level, the company looked at the 18 patents that Motorola Mobility had asserted against Apple, suggesting that these particular patents may be the “stars” of the bunch — but, again, found that nine of those patents were “impaired,” and were unlikely to be very strong or valuable.

The report notes that buying and maintaining dubious patents probably isn’t a particularly good value by itself:

Google is paying $12.5 billion for alleged assets that include a 17,000 patent portfolio, of which close to half appear to serve as deterrent value alone. The cost of maintaining patents of dubious quality will be an ongoing and potentially unnecessary liability to Google and its shareholders. Regrettably, close to half of the portfolio deemed “best” based on previous assertions have substantial weaknesses. Google’s patent stockpiling initiative appears to be focused entirely on deterrent value rather than on acquiring quality assets. Google shareholders may take some small solace in the adoption of a multi pronged defensive strategy, but may want to demand higher quality standards for the assets and liabilities acquired in future transactions.

Of course, if Google’s goal is longer term, it’s possible that this isn’t such a crazy deal. Already, we’ve seen that this acquisition alone has been a key driving force in getting lots of people (and especially the press) to admit that the patent system is clearly broken. Spending that much to get that kind of widespread awareness may be worth it… if it leads to real reform (which is still a big question mark). On top of that, if the quantity of patents has a deterrent value, no matter the quality of the overall bunch, it’s likely that Google will still find it “worth it.” However, the fact that it now needs to maintain these 17,000 patents, where approximately half may have no direct commercial value, really demonstrates (yet again) the massive “tax” of bad patents on companies.

via Are Any Of The Patents Google Got With Motorola Mobility Any Good? | Techdirt.

Written by Kees Winkel

September 3, 2011 at 10:18

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Why Google had to have Motorola Mobility

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Taken from The Guardian.

For several years now, Google has been following a vow made by former CEO Eric Schmidt: mobile first. New CEO Larry Page is taking that dictum to a new level by announcing a deal to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5bn.

The implications of this deal depend entirely on how Google plans to use Motorola. If, as some claim, the deal is more about obtaining Motorola’s mobile patent portfolio than anything else, we can expect escalating patent warfare between technology giants and limited innovation beyond that. If, however, Google intends to operate the business it is acquiring, we may see some broad and sweeping changes in the technology industry.

If the deal is chiefly about obtaining Motorola’s mobile patent portfolio, then Google would likely spin off the hardware end of the company and keep the software and patents. The patents would be vital weapons in its competition with Apple and Microsoft, as the two companies are using patent claims to try to slow the remarkable growth of Google’s Android operating system, which has become the most widely used smartphone platform.

But assuming Google intends to operate the business it is purchasing – and also assuming, as seems probable, regulatory approval of the deal – the landscape for Google, and the technology industry more broadly, will change. Some of the implications are clear already.

Perhaps Google wants to be more like Apple, owning an entire ecosystem around Android. For all its success, Android has suffered from “feature balkanisation”, as phone manufacturers and carriers have turned the open source system to their own aims.

Motorola knows how to make good hardware (though it’s been outdone in that regard by Samsung and HTC in the Android market), and one can imagine some excellent devices – once Google controls the outcome, as it did with its initial Nexus One phone (made by HTC) and Nexus S (Samsung).

Read the whole story at: Why Google had to have Motorola Mobility | Dan Gillmor | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

Written by Kees Winkel

August 17, 2011 at 10:33

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Motorola acquisition means Google gets 17,000 patents, 3 times Nortel’s

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So – Google has acquired Motorola’s mobile phone business for a whopping $12.5 billion. Things just got very interesting in the Google, Apple and Microsoft battle.

Last week, we wrote about how Android was under threat in an ongoing patent war with a number of companies – including Apple, Microsoft and Oracle. An obvious step by Google was to embed itself in the handset business, but it’s probably fair to say that not many people saw this acquisition coming. To say this news is huge would be somewhat of an understatement.

Android now has around half of the global smartphone market. And combined with iOS, Google and Apple account for over two-thirds of the smartphone market globally.

It’s easy to explain Android’s dominance. It’s a free, open-source platform, and thus can be used by any mobile phone manufacturer, just as the likes of HTC, Samsung, Acer, Sony Ericsson, LG and Motorola already do.

The patent war…

However, Microsoft in particular has been taking swipes at Google through targeting handset makers that use Android – it’s built on the Linux Kernel, which supposedly infringes multiple patents owned by Microsoft. As such, companies such as HTC – which uses Android on many of its handsets – must pay Microsoft for each handset it sells with that operating system installed.

And in recent times, it seems the battle for supremacy has descended into simple patent acquisition to get one-up on rivals. CPTN Holdings is a consortium of technology companies that include Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and EMC Corporation. It secured a portfolio of 882 patents from Novell when it was acquired by Attachmate. Then there’s the Rockstar consortium, which also has Apple and Microsoft as members, and it recently won the auction of 6,000 patents/patent applications from Canadian telecoms company Nortel.

Google too has been engaging in similar patent-acquiring activities, recently securing over a thousand patents from IBM.

But news that Google has acquired Motorola Mobility means that besides now adding a mobile phone company to its repertoire, it also owns many, many patents.

The whole story via Motorola acquisition means Google gets 17,000 patents, 3 times Nortel’s.

Written by Kees Winkel

August 16, 2011 at 10:13

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A very interesting move by Google this morning, buying handset hardware maker Motorola for $12.5 billion.

Google deserves credit for a big, bold move.

But let’s be real: This deal could end up being a disaster.


Well, for starters, the deal creates major channel conflict: Google is now competing with its partners. And hardware manufacturing is an entirely different kind of business than Google’s core business. And hardware manufacturing is a crappy, low-margin commodity business. And Motorola is massive–Google has just increased the size of its company by 60%. And the deal appears to be purely a defensive move, not an offensive one. And so on.

Let’s have a look at some of the host of questions and challenges the deal raises, starting with the channel conflict:

How do HTC and Samsung, two of the leading Android-based smartphone makers, feel about the fact that their “partner” Google is now competing directly with them for hardware sales?

And we mean, how do they really feel, internally, not “what are they saying in public?” (The quotes Google has assembled from HTC, LG, et al, all appear to have been written by the same PR person–note the similarity in the language.)

The only reason Android (and Google) have any share of the mobile game, after all, is because hardware makers like HTC and Samsung adopted Google’s software platform. And now Google is stabbing them in the back.

By now, it’s probably too late for Samsung and HTC to switch to another platform, so they’ll have to smile and make the best of it. But still… having your software “partner” suddenly fire a missile down your throat  can’t feel too good.

And if Google-owned Motorola starts to gain share in the hardware business, the feeling (and tension) will only get worse.

Continue via THE TRUTH ABOUT THE GOOGLE-MOTOROLA DEAL: It Could End Up Being A Disaster.

Written by Kees Winkel

August 15, 2011 at 18:48

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Google buys Motorola Mobility

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This is news that few saw coming – Google has bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. From a developer’s point of view this is a mixed blessing with some potentially good aspects and some potentially bad ones.

First it is worth saying that Motorola’s phone department wasn’t really much compared to what it once was and perhaps finding a backer like Google is just what it needed. On the other hand Google doesn’t really have a track record for designing hardware that makes any sort of impact at all. As Motorola went 100% Android recently, its acquisition by Google doesn’t affect any other platform directly.

The first big problem for Google is that it has just acquired a company that has a lot of employees at a time that Google itself is expanding at a rate that must make it hard to manage. This leads on to the problem that the other manufacturers of Android hardware must be thinking that Motorola will now get insider status. Google has stated that the Motorola division will be kept separate and treated on an equal footing with other hardware manufacturers. Even so, if you were an Android handset maker wouldn’t you be looking to see what else was on offer – say, Windows Phone 7?

A key element in the purchase is the fact that Motorola has 17,000 patents and 7,500 pending. This is three times the number that Nortel held when Google failed to win the auction by bidding silly numbers. In the light of the takeover perhaps the bidding wasn’t quite so silly. In fact many are saying that it was all a brilliant ploy by Larry Page – who knows?

It is also difficult to work out what the effect of the patents will have on the Oracle Google lawsuit which is still grinding on. Google also inherits a number of lawsuits involving Motorola – notably Motorola v Microsoft.

It is easy to see the acquisition as just being about patents, but Google could probably have achieved the same result by simply licencing that patents for a much lower sum. Whatever the rationale it is clear that this is all about Android.

To quote Google:

“The combination of Google and Motorola will not only supercharge Android, but will also enhance competition and offer consumers accelerating innovation, greater choice, and wonderful user experiences. I am confident that these great experiences will create huge value for shareholders.”

We will have to a wait and see what it all means, but it clearly is a shake up for the Android market. Whether it makes the whole enterprise more secure, has no effect, or drives manufacturers into the arms of alternative platforms, only time will tell.

via Google buys Motorola Mobility.

Written by Kees Winkel

August 15, 2011 at 18:43

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